by Ross E. Lockhart, Managing Editor
I’m going to let you in on a big secret: most genre conventions are actually two conventions. There is the convention itself, with its speakers, panels, awards banquets, pitch sessions, and track programming, and then there is that phenomena affectionately known as “bar con,” a movable feast in which the real business of genre publishing—or, at the very least, an awful lot of drinking—gets done.
I was no stranger to conventions and their unique dynamics before joining Night Shade Books, having attended San Diego Comic-Con—officially and unofficially—for several years (before it moved out of Golden Hall and became a city-sized advertising event for summer movies) and a number of music industry conventions in my former life, but my first literary convention was the 2007 World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York. My Virgil for this Divine Comedy of discovery was Night Shade’s editor-in-chief, Jeremy Lassen, and between Bar Con and the dealers’ room, I met a number of awesome people, and had an incredible time, but didn’t attend a single panel or official convention event.
Other literary conventions followed. Notable good times were had at the 2008 World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, NorWesCon 32 in Seattle, Washington, and the 66th annual World Science Fiction Convention in Denver, Colorado (AKA Denvention3). I didn’t attend a single panel at these, though there was, apparently, singing.
But lately, I’ve become interested in the more… conventional aspects of conventions. At last year’s World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, I participated in a panel on mermaids alongside author Stina Leicht, and had a wonderful time (though we did head back to the bar afterwards), and I’ve signed up for a handful of panels—to be announced—at this year’s World Horror Convention (which is back in Salt Lake City). If you’re attending, come on by.
So… Pints or Panels? I recommend them both. If you’re trying to network, meet your favorite authors, or collect autographs, hit the track programming. If, however, you want to see industry professionals in their natural habitat, go to the bar.